Soul of the Samurai has the basic structure of a Resident Evil game, in that you get 3D characters moving in a limited space on a series of fixed 2D backgrounds. The gameplay, however, really more resembles a 3D button-masher beat-em-up than it does a typical "survival horror" game.

Players take the role of either Kotaro (your stock anachronistic cocky samurai punk), or Lin (your stock panty-flashing female ninjer.) The story is basically stock crappy samurai movie stuff and honestly doesn't even bear mention, since it's just a vehicle to propel you from one slice-em-up sequence to another. There is a "horror" tinge to it, in that these giant parasite things are getting inside people and turning them into undead zombie warriors, but it isn't emphasized the way it is in later game Onimusha (which this one is frequently compared to.) The soundtrack, composed of traditional Japanese music crossed up with badass 1970s wa-chika-wa, provides a constant reminder that the game isn't really supposed to be scaring you.

The game is divided into chapters, which are very short and exceedingly linear. Often they only consist of a few screens of generic bad guys, followed by a boss fight. The two characters take different paths through the game, and Kotaro has a hidden boss, but beyond that there's almost no point to replay the game as the experience will be identical.

The gameplay is simpler than a typical survival horror game, as there's no puzzles or non-combat items whatsoever. All you do is hack, hack and hack through tons of enemies. The engine is thus much simpler than Konami's own Silent Hill, but it also moves a bit faster and more smoothly. Instead of turning slowly, the biggest drawback of the usual Resident Evil clone engine, you can simply push in any direction and move in that direction instantly. You also step and run a lot faster, you can jump, and you can defend by holding down the R1 button.

In spite of the increased fluidity, however, the game is actually more frustrating than the usual survival horror. The first couple of chapters are deceptively simple, but then the game starts jagging tremendously in difficulty, randomly throwing you through gauntlets of really annoying enemies, and tossing you boss battles where they can kill you in a couple of hits but you have to land tens of blows to defeat them.

There's a few staunch fans that stand by the game, but most of the critical reviews when this came out put the game in the crapper, and I'm much more inclined to lean toward the latter. The action quickly gets as repetitive as an arcade beat-em-up, and I don't see what the point of pressing through the really hard spots is when all you get in return is more button-mashing and more crappy, instantly forgettable dialogue and story.

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